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The four things you need to be a successful freelancer

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At some stage in your creative career you will reach a point when you pass beyond the world of corporate employment. For some people, the desire to 'do your own thing' happens early on, while others need longer before they feel they can cut it in self-employment.


When the penny does drop, the attractions of running your own business are obvious. No bosses. No office politics. You can work from home. And you're free to take time off whenever you want.

Against all these there is a negative. It's a big negative. In fact such is the magnitude of the negative it will continually play on your mind and keep you up at night.

The negative is, as a freelancer, there is no safety net. If you don't work you don't get paid. Simples.

So to handle that rather tricky situation you need to run your freelancing work like it's a bona-fide business. You need to get yourself organised and approach every day with both guns blazing. Most of all, you have to start thinking about who you are and what you do in a very different way.

Always remember you are running a business
Think like an entrepreneur. Put your business at the heart of your life. Invest in it. Take risks. Network. Go to conferences. Advertise. If you're the type that likes to stay tucked up in bed while the phone is ringing, running your own business will be tough going. Get someone to do your book-keeping. And don't be afraid to send someone a terse email if they owe you money.

Develop a thick skin
Whatever skill you have, whatever awards you have won, you will always come up against people who think they know better. And the chances are - as a freelancer - you could be employed by someone who believes they know better than you. So in this instance what’s the best attitude to take? Do you fight your corner and argue with your client as to why you’re right and he/she is wrong? Or do you do what they ask, bank the cheque and walk away?

Believe in yourself
What will you say when a new client asks if you could trim your day rate by 50 per cent? What will you do when you have a quiet spell? As a freelance creative you need to believe in your own ability and have the confidence to stand up for yourself. Things never happen in the way you expect them to happen and you've got to make sure that you don't buckle when you feel under pressure.

Get organised
Every successful freelancer is well organised. For example, they have a dedicated room that they call their office. They have a business phone number that's different to their home number. They employ an accountant. They plan ahead and know when to pay their taxes. They send their invoices out promptly. They keep records of their clients work. They file stuff away. They have shelves full of ring-binders. They have see through plastic files. They have posh pens. They have briefcases. They have moleskin writing pads - in orange goddammit! You get my point.

So being freelance isn't just about developing your skills in your chosen career. What you also need is a love of running your own business. Make no mistake, it's hard work.

John Fountain is a freelance copywriter.
Follow @fountainjohn

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